(AUTHOR'S NOTES: So, it's been a bit of a X box session, I've been enjoying partying up with the chums. It's these lot that give me my inspiration and all. So, why not? Let's get it on.)
Reach Time: 08:30
Date: January 16th 2552 (4 Months and 1 Day before Reach falls)
Location: UNSC Storm Control Warrant Officer Orso's Quarters
My alarm woke me suddenly, my eyes blinking as they adjusted to the darkness. I gulped. I remembered what day it was and looked at my neatly pressed formal uniform. Getting up wasn't hard at all but my shoulder throbbed as I put my feet on the cool tiled floor and now I was making my way towards the dress uniform slowly slipping it on thinking to myself about today.
The ceremony for the ODSTs that had lost their lives in order to reclaim the very building I was standing in was today and not only that but they'd been under my command. Although I could not have foreseen the events that occured and ended in their demise; I still felt guilty and no amont of convincing would sway that from me. In fact, it had proven almost impossible for anyone to sway the guilt from my spirit at all. No matter how much people said it wasn't, it was totally my fault.
With the dress uniform on, I walked out into the corridor dark and cold as it was with the sound of continuous rain from the outside echoing throughout. It was a quiet morning in the base, unnaturally so with not a soul around. It was good for me to think. Until thunder cracked down from the sky and shocked me out of my trance, a new figure also in dress uniform staring at me. I couldn't recognize who it was in the dark but even as my eyes adjusted I still didn't find the figure familiar. He whistled. "You look good," said the voice as the man walked towards me shuffling his sock hat in a familiar fashion "Come on Kiddo, it's Donny's day today."
"Cyph3r?" I asked the darkness, the commander still walking towards me and patting me on the shoulder. I sighed. "Yeah," he replied "Are you going to be alright Orso?"
The commander slapped me on the shoulder once again, seeing through my facade and simply nodding in agreement to keep me appeased. "Do you know why there's always lightning here Orso?" he asked me randomly to lighten the mood and I did feel the tension ease but I shrugged because I didn't actually know the answer to his question at all. "It's Reach's volcanic activity, creating warm air pockets and in turn generating storms. All those storms congregate in this area. I admire the lightning."
"Admire the lightning?" I asked staring at the captain, notcing his long brown hair and almost ginger beard. He again shuffled his hat and smiled at me "It comes and goes in its glory, all that power. In a second. I wish I was like that..."
Another large aura could be felt in the corridor as curly haired Rodriguez appeared in the dark corridor; Corbett behind him. They both stared at the two of us. "Ha ha, admiring lightning again there Cy..." smiled Rod even under the circumstances "We should press on to breakfast at least." Corbett scoffed at the three of us, his blonde cropped hair shining in the limelight as we proceeded to the mess hall with heads down and hardly a word spoken.
The mess was quiet, all the formal attired people in the world but none able to speak on such a sad occasion. There were wives with children, siblings, parents and us. The freaks sat in the corner. Not a word protruded as we ate the strange bars of food on our plates but Cyph3r continued to shuffle his hat as if to make up for the fact he wasn't wearing a helmet and Corbett still remained as hostile as ever. I didn't eat anything, I just let Rodriguez take it for himself and he was grateful but none of us said anything still. It was like we were already at the ceremony, all depressed.I couldn't hack it and it was driving Cyph3r mad. He couldn't take it and as he went to get up to protest a large voice sounded over the base PA system:
"All those attending the ODST remembrance service please proceed to the North hangar now."
I saw the flood of people get up and march towards the hangar I'd once lead the ODSTs and met Corbett. We joined onto the back of the queue as they made their pilgrimage to the ceremony. It was droll, with melancholy people everywhere and seats set under a soundproof shield to stop the thunder interrupting. Then it began Xiang stepping out on the podium in her best wear, singing war praises and commending those who had died on the field for this base. For this "new beacon of hope" as she called it, I hardly paid attention and neither did Cyph3r but Corbett and Rod stood entranced at the back of the congregation with us. Xiang just continued on and on with her praises as if she knew the poor souls or what they must of been through; when she didn't and neither did I and that made me sad really. Really sad. As family members all took turns to speak and eventually the sound of music and gunfire drew the ceremony to a close with weeping widows and orphans also letting out their own chorus. I gulped hard. Guilt was a unbelievable torment.
The mess turned into a reception hall, the wake glum but the ale flowing, I wasn't happy, I'll admit that, who could be? And why was I so selfish at this time? Moping about my own guilt when there were widows; there were orphans. Cyph3r thought it'd be a good idea to drink away my sorrows. In fact that was a bad idea, the day began to become a blur and till this day I still couldn't remember all of it. One thing I did remember was quite poignant though and I probably would never forget for the rest of my life...
Cyph3r sat opposite me at the bar talking to me about woman (including Xiang) and battle and what he aspired to do; he was telling me his dreams of one day becoming commander-in-chief and becoming the second MAster Chief his own great hero. I laughed at him. His brown eyes narrowed as he wondered what I found amusing and in my drunken stupor "That'd be so funny; yet so fun at the same time!" I had been yelling at the top of my voice; not noticing the horror on the faces of the congregation and the horror as a pale tear stained woman wrestled hair way towards me. Me and Cyph3r had continued to laugh to each other until she had come at us, a tongue of venom as her weapon. "WHO ARE YOU!?" she screamed angrily and upset at our behaviour. Cyph3r took off his hat "Commander Cyph3r ma'am SPARTAN WOLF." replied the commander bowing his head "I'm sorry for your loss."
"You certainly have a funny way of showing it," she retorted harshly "And you?"
"SPARTAN AH92 Warrant Officer Orso."
The whole room fell silent and the woman, grabbed me by the collar and pulled my face down to her level so as I didn't tower her. "So you led those boys?" she asked me. The whole room waited expectantly and all my instincts were telling me to lie, to say no but I told the truth. "Yes Ma'am."
My face stung but I shrugged it off, pulling her hand off and about to leave as she began her assault on me "IT'S YOUR FAULT!" she shrilled at the top of her lungs "Your fault my husband Donald Peterson is dead, his twins without a father-" the twins appeared, each a spitting image of their father whom had challenged us SPARTANs. They had the faces of brave men and I couldn't bring myself to look at the family as Cyph3r tried to defuse the situation: "I think you're being unfair there-"
"Unfair! What's unfair is I am now alone, my boys without a father and it's all you...you...you freaks fault!" Corbett and Rod had joined in now, turning in their chair towards the woman as she shook a fist and waved a finger to all of TARTARUS "You made them feel uncomfortable, you made them feel unworthy so they pushed themselves. Look at you, YOU'RE INVINCIBLE BUT WHAT ABOUT THE NORMAL MEN YOU DRAG DOWN WITH YOU HEY, HEY!?" I still wasn't looking and Corbett smashed a glass in his grip "IF YOU'R SO FUCKING GOOD THEN WHY IS MY HUSBAND DEAD!?"
We didn't answer but she went on fuming at us, my red cheek feeling the cool touch of a tear "IF YOU'RE SO GOOD THEN WHY, WHY ARE YOU ALL THEY WANT TO PROTECT WHAT ABOUT THOSE BOYS WHAT ABOUT-?"
"You're husband knew what he signed up for," I growled under my breathe.
"Your husband and the rest of the ODSTs challenged us and we thought it would boost them on to win," I continued growling, a tone in my voice as tense as the rest of my body "He did his duty and now you have a home, a real home not floating about in the cold hands of space but here on Reach where there are trees. Did you ever think that, did you ever thank him for that? Because I did!" The crowd looked at me stunned not sure what to do with me the team also quite unsure as Xiang made her way through the crowd "I am also deeply sorry for every single one of them but do you know what... what makes me angry... what makes me really angry... IS THAT YOU THINK I ASKED FOR THIS!?"
I smacked myself on the chest horrifying the crowd and roaring like the bear I was named after "I was sold, hardly a year old and prodded and tested and thrown into battle at 16!" Cyph3r nodded "FOR YOU, FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU!" I pointed back at the woman now "And I am called a freak, a murderer and blamed and I sit and take it." Xiang came forward and I saw Cy stop her and Rod do the same, I could hear them murmuring between themselves but I focused on Mrs. Peterson, so angry at her disregarded it "But if you are so ignorant as to say that I enjoy this... that I wanted this and that I'm a freak, then you are wrong. So fucking wrong."
I left quite hastily, the crowd in awe and holding back tears of anger and guilt. The only person who followed me was Xiang "Halt, Orso, stop. Orso!"
She then proceeded to do something rather strange, she hugged me "It's going to be alright you know." she said backing away "You'll be fine." I had a hard time believing but didn't disagree, I looked lost. I then looked around for the rest of the team but they weren't there it was me and Xiang all alone. "I ordered them to their rooms, ease the tension, I'll talk to the people but I think you've said enough."
"Fuck off have I..."
I looked down at my feet and began walking down the hall, undoing my tie and untucking my shirt "I'll be in my room." I called back to the base commander sinking my hands into my pockets and letting the brown hair cover my green eyes to mask the sadness that had been left within me.
I had admitted something for the first time in my life; I cared for those around me and that SPARTANs were far from invincible...